The Veitch leaks

Quite a bit of discussion regarding the ongoing media stories in the Veitch case. Bill Ralston wants an investigation:

What ever happened to the laws of sub judicae? The weekend’s Sunday Star Times and Herald on Sunday both reported at length on the nature and detail of the charges faced by Tony Veitch.

In theory the sub judicae rule bars any public comment on a matter before the courts that is likely to influence the case. Failure to observe this rule means the publisher and anyone else involved in publicising the material could face contempt of court charges.

The reason for the rule is simple: pre-trial publicity can potentially sway a jury.

The Sunday papers had far more information than was made public in Veitch’s first and only court appearance. They detailed the nature of the alleged assaults and the context in which they supposedly occurred.

Steven Price is less concerned:

Some defence lawyers have been getting their knickers in a knot about reporting on the Veitch case in yesterday’s Sunday Star-Times and Herald on Sunday.

Can’t say I share their concerns. Certainly, now that charges have been laid, publishing material that tends to create a real risk of prejudice to Veitch’s trial will be a contempt of court. But there doesn’t seem to be much in these stories to create such a risk.

They essentially summarise the police allegations. It looks like they came from the police summary of facts. The papers reported them as allegations. They note that Veitch denies them. They don’t get into assessing the evidence. They have reported no more than is almost certain to come out in depositions. Any trial is a good long way away, so any possible effect on jurors is almost sure to dissipate.

Russell Brown also thinks the leaks are getting too much:

That’s three weeks by my count. Three weeks of stories being placed with the Sunday newspapers by persons unknown, but — at the least in the case of the last lot — very likely to be playing for Team Tony Veitch. Because, frankly, there aren’t many other people it could be. …

Perhaps I’m being unfair to all three reporters. Perhaps they all came up with the same information through their own initiative and contacts. Maybe both sides are working them (and it may well be that the first media outreach in this sorry business came from the Dunne-Powell side). But it looks a lot more like they’re now allowing themselves to be used in a methodical public relations campaign by one side: that of the celebrity accused. And they, and their editors, should think about that.

I do wonder if this court case will see higher bills from the lawyers or the PR teams 🙂

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